Story is not enough

It’s very hard to write when you are sick at heart.

For me – an American – the events of the past few months have caused a renewal of heartache. My country’s election of a corrupt, cruel, and venomous buffoon to the position of national leader was undeniably a catalyst, but the ache predates even his rise to power. We live a time of almost unbearable strangeness, where one can go with a few clicks from cat videos to pornography to people pratfalling off treadmills. People can live decades with diseases that would have been death sentences a few decades ago, doctors can videoconference to surgery tables, and we can see light-years away with stunning clarity.

These are the days of miracle, to paraphrase Paul Simon, but not of wonder. Continue reading

On Symbols and Searching for Them

When I was a middle/high school student, I had a flair for finding meanings in various literary constructions in the poems and short stories that we read. For most of these, I was spitballing because no one else in the class would raise their hand, but it was still fun to poke around at the possibilities. This stayed through college; I once jokingly told a friend that I could come up with all sorts of “deep” interpretations of a webcomic we both followed and did so. A joke cult became a comment on religion’s masquerade and a running gag of a purse was transformed to a comment on the menace of consumerism. It was a ton of fun and made up entirely on the spot.

I had the tables turned on me when one of my poems came up for critique in a poetry class. A classmate expounded on a complex interpretation related to art and the perils of taking its pursuit too far. It was incredibly insightful- and had nothing to do with anything I’d had in mind for the poem. Continue reading

Tolstoy’s Definition of Art- And Why It’s Wrong

Since this marks my 50th blog post, I decided that in honor of the occasion, I would join the time-honored blogging tradition of using this corner of web space as a soapbox. And to my mind there could be no better way to do this than to posit that Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, manages to miss the entire point of art in his definition of the subject.

I should add that this definition, which I’m going to trash in this post of a few hundred or so words, took him nearly fifteen years to develop. Continue reading